Rama Krishna Sangem
Balasore train tragedy on June 2 that claimed lives of close to 400 and still counting is undoubtedly a national shame. At a time when India claims to becoming a developed nation and dozens of Vande Bharat super fast express trains are being introduced and efforts are underway for bullet trainss.
A good locomotive colludes with a passenger train and massive death and destruction takes place. Officials figures say, the toll is around 250 but going by the number of injured, not less than 900, the deaths may go up. Prime Minister Modi visited the site, top officials of railways accompany him. Routine investigations are ordered and exgratia to victims is announced etc;
All this has become regular affairs whenever a railway tragedy happens. These accidents are dismissed as accidents, where no one is accountable and only years long probes will pin point the role of a smaller guy or guys. Some action is taken against them, then everyone forgets the accident.
What is Kavach? Why it is not here?
in 2012, railways proudly claimed to have discovered Kavach, anti-collision system or automatic railway protection (ARP) system that will prevent train accidents due to collisions. Huge amounts are allocated for it in budget after budget.
We are told this ARP is not available on this route of Balasore, where the latest accident took place.
We also come to know that so far only 1,445 km of railways route was arranged with this ARP and work is on for another 3,000 km. Annual allocation for Kavach system is around Rs 1,000 crore in 2023-24 union budget. That too on a busy Delhi- Mumbai route. Routes like Balasore will decades to get priority of Indian railways.
Going by the total length of 1,08,000 km, routes of Indian railways, and going by the present rate of Kavach being fixed, it will take at least 30-4 0 years by the time entire country is covered by ab anti-collision system. Definitely not before 2047, what our PM Modi fondly calls Amrit Kal!
Till recently, India railways used to witness hundreds of accidents due to trains hitting buses or track faults. Thousands had died and several thousands became crippled. In every budget, our railways or finance ministers reel out statistics on how funds are allocated to rail safety. Hundreds of technical and experts committees are appointed on railway accidents (one per each accident) and their reports gather dust in rail bhavans.
But, not much is seen on the ground. A bureaucrat turned railways minister Ashwin Vaishnaw should find ways to stop this national shame – of thousands of Indians being killed by Indian railways. Payment of exgratia or compensation to victims is not a solution. Safety of railways is the solution.